Art & Culture

Beethoven’s Difficult Character, Part 2

The German pianist and composer, known for being ill-tempered and irritable, managed to produce a stunning body of work despite being deaf

As I mentioned in the previous article, after much research, the cause of the great composer’s afflictions was discovered.  

At Beethoven’s deathbed, Ferdinand Hiller, a fellow musician and admirer, asked for a lock of Beethoven’s hair, which he kept in a medallion and then donated to a museum. This lock of hair survived World War II; it was passed around, hidden from the Nazis, and eventually appeared in Denmark in the hands of a Jewish refugee who in turn gave the medal by way of payment to a Red Cross doctor.

The medallion subsequently turned up in Arizona, U.S.A. The first to analyze it was a forensic surgeon called Che Guevara (yes, a namesake of the famous Argentinian revolutionary). After four more years of analysis by Dr. William Walsh from the University of Chicago and another group of scientific collaborators, they finally announced their results.

We now know that Beethoven’s anger and extreme mood swings were due to high concentrations of nickel, arsenic, cobalt, chrome, silver, mercury, cadmium and most significantly, lead, which was 100 times the usual concentration.

Beethoven himself authorized that upon his death his body be studied so that the world might know the reasons for his illness. It is said that his moments of worst pain were when he created his best compositions, perhaps taking refuge in the music. In accordance with the analyses, lead affects emotions in the brain, disinhibiting and provoking emotional highs and lows in the sufferer. Most likely Beethoven sought music to calm his moods.   

This is why, many years before his death in what is called the ‘Testament of Beethoven’, he complained about how misunderstood he felt, given that people didn’t know about his terrible illness or how he suffered because he couldn’t listen to that which he lived for: music.  

Source: www.biografí

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